Splosion Man

Year: 2009
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Twisted Pixel
Genre: Puzzle
Review Date: 8/28/10
Rating: ***

"Splosion Man" is a "love it or hate it" type of puzzle game reminiscent of the similarly maddening "Lemmings" (1991). It's super fun when you're winning, and intensely aggravating when you're not. Fortunately, Splosion Man is so gleefully insane that the pain and humiliation of dying over and over again is minimized and his cheerfully playful demeanor keeps you coming back for more. The game revolves around the eponymous Splosion Man trying to escape a labyrinthine lab facility that's full of spinning blades, pools of acid, crushing walls, electrified barriers, killer robots, and an endless supply of scientists who are trying to kill you. Splosion Man's one ability is that he can explode up to three times in succession, which works as a triple jump. This means that every level is an exercise in precision jumping, which is often coupled with a time restraint. Figuring out how to get from point A to point B is fun and exhilarating, but can quickly turn into frustration when you start dying a lot. Checkpoints are placed fairly liberally, and the delay between dying and respawning is short enough that it's hardly noticeable and keeps you in the action. If a level is taking you more than 20 minutes to clear, you have the option to skip it by using "The Way Of The Coward," which is an ingenious way to allow players to experience as much of the game as possible. Unfortunately, you can't skip past the final annoying boss, so I'll never get to see how the game ends.

What makes "Splosion Man" so endearing is the character's personality. His goofy antics and constant giggling always made me smile and helped melt away the tension of the gameplay. The same warped sense of humor is found throughout the game, as scientists explode into chunks of luncheon meat and doughnut loving scientists can be used as shields against harmful death rays. The music is upbeat and playful, and the 60's inspired theme song is extremely catchy. The levels are bright and colorful, but they all start to look the same after a while. The camera can occasionally be a nuisance when it pulls back so far that you can't even tell where you are, which is particularly problematic during the aggravating boss battles. Overall, "Splosion Man" starts out with a bang and ends with a whimper as its difficulty and repetition eventually wear you down. It's definitely one of those games that you should quit while you're ahead, or else it will just make you angry.